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Sheena's Sweets and Such!

By Orvella Small

We as parents always encouraged all four of our children to dream about the future and what they might want to be when they grew up, including our youngest daughter Sheena. When in Grade Six she decided that a Candy Store would be her dream career and we encouraged her to go for it.

Sheena has a diagnosis of Williams Syndrome but never have we let that be a deterrent to looking to the future. We were connected to Highwood Development Corporation now known as Community Futures who support small businesses to get off the ground.

Sheena was assigned a Youth Development Worker whom supported her to get started on the candy store business. Sheena was encouraged to start her business plan in Grade 8 and she finished it in Grade 12 and was also granted 5 credits.

While attending school her classes included opportunities for Sheena to work on the skills she would require to own her own business, like producing a brochure and business cards in computer class. During her Grade 12 year she attended one university class on Small Business through Mount Royal University and worked very hard to graduate from Grade 12 with a diploma.

Funds were required to start her business and we decided we were not going to be responsible to provide those funds that she had to qualify for funds like anyone else. Of course she had no credit rating so was refused by the bank, and with a letter in hand stating that she had been denied funds she was able to apply for a loan through HBDC.

A $25,000.00 loan was applied for and was granted to her as a "Young Entrepreneur Loan" which also had the cheapest interest rate. Sheena had 5 years to pay this loan off and was able to pay it off in 4.5 years. Hard work to manage the funds and make the payments when things were slow but she did it. Sheena has been in business for 7.5 years, has moved her store once and is still as excited about her business as she was the day she opened it.

As for the family, we all support her and yes it is extra work. We manage Sheena’s support staff through Family Managed Supports which is part of the Government of Alberta Persons with Developmental Disabilities program. The staff are fantastic and have been with her for a long time, change will be tough but is a reality. She requires support in a few areas but just like any other store that hires for those skills Sheena has that support in her family.

She has deemed me (her mom) her business manager so we make decisions together, when we are short on staff we all pitch in and help her out. She has some natural community supports who come in and volunteer to be at the store with her because they believe in what she is doing, are proud of what she is doing, and want to be a part of this out of the box experience. We as her parents and family couldn't do this without all the wonderful people who care for Sheena and her business. We are very proud of the fact that she was determined and has accomplished what she wanted to do just like her three older brothers!